Ten rap features that stole the show
Features have a long history in hip-hop, one that's now frequently used in other musical forms, as well. It can serve several purposes: A well-placed feature can present you to a whole new pocket of possible fans. It can also take advantage of another rapper's current popularity, or it can give the listener another style or a distinct style to chew on, possibly showcasing an already strong chemistry.
There is one rule that always stays the same, however: Don't get bodied on your own track! Unfortunately, sometimes it's unavoidable, as in these cases, where, for the most part, the primary rapper wasn't bad (usually even quite good), but the featured rapper was just in the zone. Here are the top ten cases.
10. Jay Rock featured by Kendrick Lamar on "Money Trees"
After Kendrick delivers two strong opening verses with a sort of lazy stoicism, Jay Rock takes the tone of the song in a totally different direction, ramping up the song's intensity to the point of paranoid anxiety. Jay blends violence and crime with nostalgic childhood images and humor, creating an environment where life and duress seem inextricable. It's as if Jay Rock is delivering a funny and sentimental verse where violence is a given, and it ends up being one of the best verses on Kendrick's album.
9. Andre3000 featured by T.I. on "Sorry"
T.I., when he wants to be, is a really good lyricist, and he got meditative as shit on "Sorry" and probably figured, "Who's a nice Southern boy I can meditate with?" So he called on Andre 3000, the consummate lyricist. As it turns out, nobody meditates like Andre 3000, and he makes T.I.'s musings seem like a teenager's diary in comparison.
8. AZ featured by Nas on "Life's a Bitch"
The only guest verse on probably the greatest, most beloved album in all of hip-hop, and it's arguably one of the best verses -- definitely the best on the song. It's hard to figure out how AZ, on an album that changed how people rapped, seemed to already have adapted and even mastered the new style of rhyming. Beyond that, AZ's content is gripping, touching on the sin that creeps into a person as they are forced to grow up.
7. Nas featured by Rick Ross on "Triple Beam Dreams"
Both Nas and Rozay are speaking on, very generally, the same subject, but this track illustrates perhaps like no other the wide range of depth in so-called "sex, money, drugs" songs, and that even when the subject matter is indeed sex, drugs and money, the implications can touch on so much more. While Ross is content being the boss of the fuck boys, Nas paints a detailed picture of a young black man in a crappy circumstance with a chip on his shoulder. One is believable; one is not.
6. Nicki Minaj featured by Kanye West on "Monster"
Gasp! Nicki Minaj on a best-of list? Over "I Am a God" Yeezus? Blasphemy! Well, it's well deserved here. Lording over an all-star cast of Ye, Jay-Z and Rick Ross, Nicki is the only one to even come close to encapsulating the "Monster" theme. With Nicki's talent for multiple personalities, it's almost like she was born for this guest spot. Her vicious Roman alter-ego toys with her innocent Barbie self, and you can hear her purposefully struggle to keep the personas distinct, making her version of the monster the most believable and intense.
5. Kendrick Lamar featured by Schoolboy Q on "Blessed"
Even after Schoolboy Q delivers a fiery and passionate verse two, Kendrick still manages to steal the show with a verse that achieves not only his usual emotional depth but absolutely puts on a clinic on how to capture the energy of a song with a unique cadence perfectly tailored for the beat. Kendrick's voice acts as another instrument in the soundscape, and he thus manages to mesmerize whether you are listening in-depth or at a cursory level.
4. Andre3000 featured by UGK on "International Players Anthem"
Andre 3000 has always been one to write verses that sound unlike anybody else's. For "International Players Anthem," it sounds as if Three Stacks gave UGK his verse, and they were completely confounded about what to do with it, so they composed an entire beginning section just to work with his style. Well, it sure as hell worked out, as Andre's verse is one of his very best, and the anthem is one of the best tracks to ever come out of the South.
3. Snoop Dogg featured by Dr. Dre on "Nuthin' but a G Thang"
Dr. Dre's a great producer -- one of the best of all time -- but he's not a very good rapper. Even when he has ghostwriters, which he hopefully didn't have here because the lyrics are not so great, he's not especially good at delivering them. Snoop Dogg, on the other hand, is a master of delivery, and he takes full advantage of Dre's smooth-as-silk production even if Dre can't himself.
2. Eminem featured by Jay-Z on "Renegade"
When Nas famously "Ether"ed Jay-Z during their long-running beef, one of his most hard-hitting and true lines was "Eminem murdered you on your own shit." Eminem outshines Jay-Z so thoroughly on this track, many fans mistake it for one of his songs. And it's not like Jay-Z mailed in his verse, either; he's strong, per usual. But Eminem just goes bananas on both of his verses. This is Slim Shady at his very best.
1. Nas featured by Main Source on "Live at the Barbeque"
Nas is the closest thing to Rakim in terms of revolutionizing the way people rhyme, so when his career began, his combination of flow and depth of content was unlike anything the game had seen thus far. Because his first widely received verse ever was a feature on Main Source's Breaking Atoms, there was no way he was not going to body whoever he appeared with.
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